The 19,500-m2 residential complex has been designed as a sculptural, homogeneous entity of built structures nestling very closely together and creating a myriad of passages and courtyards. The form and expression of the Waterfront drew inspiration from the mountains and landscape surrounding Stavanger, while the complex reflects the scale of the city and accommodates the wishes and requirements of the individual residents.
Part of Stavanger’s cultural heritage lies in the city’s countless wooden houses, which date back to the early 19th century. In fact, the city has Northern Europe’s largest concentration of wooden architecture inside the city limits. It is a cultural heritage the city is proud of, and one, which the Waterfront reflects and interprets in contemporary, urban terms.
For example, the same type of wood has been used for the cladding of all façades, roofs and terraces. This overall use of wood creates a distinctive, monolithic expression, while the details of the wood’s surface and structure exude presence, providing a “close-up” architectural experience.
The Waterfront resulted from Stavanger’s status as Capital of Culture in 2008. As cultural capital, Stavanger wished to focus on the role of architecture in urban development and to position the city as one of Europe’s leading cities in the field of modern wooden architecture. So the city took the initiative of organizing the architectural competition, Norwegian Wood, aimed at exploring how wood could be used as a building material in a modern, urban context. In collaboration with the local, Norwegian architectural practice, Studio Ludo (now called Kraftværk), AART architects won this open, international architectural competition.
The Waterfront has been built on the basis of local, Norwegian construction practices, in which the outer walls have been constructed in wood in the form of “Norwegian timber-framing”. The Swan eco-labelled, heat-treated pine, ThermoWood, has been used on façades, roofs and terraces. Heat-treatment is an environmentally friendly way to ensure long durability and to avoid the need for maintenance. In a short space of time, the wood also acquires an attractive, silvery grey patina.
ThermoWood is heat-treated wood from Scandinavia’s own forests, particularly suitable for the harsh climate on the coast, where the Waterfront is located. It is also proof that tradition and innovation can go hand in hand. The wood is actually treated on the basis of the same technique, which the Vikings used, when they had to char the outside of the wooden poles, which they put in the water to prolong their durability. This, together with modern technology, consisting solely of heat and steam, provides a sustainable building material with a unique functionality and stability of form.
In the context of the Waterfront, AART architects have worked using the wood’s aesthetic expression to underpin the character of the site. This is reflected in a subtle working of the façades, which face both fjord and mountains, as passages and courtyards. Facing the fjord, the expression has a roughness with relief in three different depths and widths. From a distance, the façade is offset by sleek pin stripes, while the relief effect, at close quarters, creates a special dynamism and wealth of detail. Facing the city, the passages and courtyards, the façade is smoother with boards of varying widths, but without the relief effect.
The subtle design of the façades means that the Waterfront creates a beautiful frame for the encounter between the city and the fjord – with-out turning its back on the city. As far as Stavanger is concerned, this residential complex does a great job in terms of respecting the historical city and its wealth of wooden houses. The city’s tradition of wooden houses is a proud one. In its choice of materials and façade design, the Waterfront respects, continues and interprets that tradition.
Wood is a tactile, living, breathing building material, which stimulates the senses. One of wood’s particular charms lies in its gnarls, which give the wood its life and dynamism. These gnarls were a source of inspiration for the detail on the Waterfront’s façades: for example, in the design of the ventilation, which might have risked disturbing the appearance of the façade as a “unifying skin”.
Staggering the profiles of the ventilation inlets in horizontal bands solved this detail. The horizontal bands also add cohesion to the windows in each, individual apartment, thus underlining the unit of the apartment for the resident, while to passers-by they appear as abstract lines. This variation on the façade corresponds to a gnarl in the wood. This detail within the whole reveals how many architectural possibilities lie concealed in wood as a building material.
Location: Stavanger, Norway
Client: Kruse-Smith (developer)
Gross Floor Area: 19,500 m2
Architects: AART architects
Photography: © Adam Mørk